Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun

In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire, to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It's one of those rules that the biggest fools obey,
Because the sun is far too sultry and one must avoid its ultry-violet ray...
                                                                                               Noel Coward (1931)

I pray I'm not too late.  Now that we are experiencing the lower end of triple digit temperatures, it may be passe' for me to offer some concoctions to help cool and soothe your weary souls and cautious palates.  But the heat has crazed us all, and I know that I am a bit worse for wear.  I've spent too much time in the midday sun, I fear.

However, now that we are experiencing cooler mornings, I am actually feeling more enervated and want to spend some time in the kitchen.  And although I'm not quite ready for cassoulets and cobblers, I am ready for...MORE COLD FOOD.

I'm sharing two cold soup recipes that I rely on in the summer months to either be the backbone of a grazing frenzy, or to start one of my not-so-sedate dinner parties.  These recipes are also quite serviceable as appetizers, or even to accompany your luncheon salad.  Don't you just love the sound of that word "luncheon?"  I love it because it's just so much more elegant than "lunch."  Just saying it makes me want to break out the good china and crystal and set it all very prettily on a white linen cloth.  Hats and gloves not required.  Flowers optional.  Parker House rolls and butter de rigueur.

What's that?  You say that you don't like the idea of luncheon?  Oh.  It's that you don't like the idea of cold soup.  Then you would be in the same camp as my husband.  You know, that camp on the other side of the lake that always canoes over to your camp to borrow, say, firewood, or matches, or your last can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew.  But anyway, I digress.  My husband is an individual with strong opinions.  Unlike his wife.  [Snort.  Guffaw.]  My husband's opinions include the fervent belief that soup should be hot, that fruit desserts should be cold (which essentially rules out the sheer enjoyment of crumbles, crisps, buckles, cobblers and warm apple pie with sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, I think), and that beef should be cooked beyond the promise of salvation by even the most fervent of Evangelicals.

There.  I've said it.  The funny thing is, that other camp always says that they don't like something.  But there they are, banking their canoe on your shore, standing in front of your campfire, asking for a little bit of what you're having.  And secretly loving it.  They'll never tell you, however.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho

     You can omit the vodka.  But how much fun would that be?

3 1/2 cups tomato juice (I like V-8)
2 cans (15 oz. each) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 cup cucumber, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted green chile (such as Hatch New Mexico), finely chopped
2 Tbs. flat-leaf parsley, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin, toasted
1/2 tsp. Tobasco
1 1/2 cups vodka
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped black olives

1.  In a food processor or blender, put 1 cup tomato juice, half the tomatoes, half the cucumber, all the garlic, half the red onion, half the celery, half the roasted red peppers, half the roasted green chile, as well as all of the parsley, jalapeno, red wine vinegar, lime juice, olive oil, toasted cumin and Tobasco.  Process or blend until almost smooth.
2.  Pour into a large bowl (I like to use a large covered pitcher) and add the remaining tomato juice, vegetables and vodka, if using.  

3.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Remember that cold foods require a higher level of seasoning.

4.  Cover and chill for several hours or overnight so that soup is cold and flavors are well-blended.  Adjust salt if necessary.

5.  Serve in bowls or Tom Collins glasses.  Garnish with cilantro and olives.  Serves 6 as a first course, twelve as an appetizer.

Cool and Creamy Smokey Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Strain through a china cap or a food mill if you want an ultra-smooth soup, but the original recipe has a very rustic texture.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
2 jars roasted red peppers, drained (I like to use half piquillo peppers)
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or half and half
2 tsp. smoked paprika (use regular paprika if you want a less smokey taste)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1.  In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil until slightly rippling.
2.  Saute onion and garlic until until onion is translucent, reducing heat if necessary to avoid burning the garlic.
3.  Cool and set aside.
4.  Put the sauted onions and garlic in a blender or food processor with the roasted red peppers, chicken stock, buttermilk or half and half, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.
5.  Blend or process until smooth.
6.  Add salt and pepper to taste, remembering to season highly since soup is to be served cold.
7.  Chill for several hours or overnight.
8.  Pour in to tall shot glasses or cordials.  Serves 12 generously.

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